Artificial intelligence at UVU: Polices, effects, and opinions

Reading Time: 4 minutes The conversation on artificial intelligence has exploded since ChatGPT first launched Nov. 2022, and since then, its integration or lack thereof in education has been a major talking point. To help understand the topic, The Review interviewed faculty and students to see how it is shaping the classroom.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Over the last few years, artificial intelligence (AI) technology has exploded in growth and capabilities, ranging from early image recognition in the 2010s to now where an entire movie script can be generated with a simple prompt. And for students, with the launch of tools such as ChatGPT, we are amidst global policy and law changes in how these evolving technologies affect our education and how educators approach teaching. These changes are the results of issues including students falsely being accused of cheating using AI chatbots or reports of 56% of students using AI to plagiarize assignments. 

To see how this change is taking shape within the classrooms at UVU, The Review sat down with students and faculty to discuss how AI has impacted or may impact UVU and what changes they think are necessary to avoid or prepare for whatever the technology brings next. 

One of the first faculty members we talked to was Brian Whaley, the department head of English and Literature here at UVU. While Professor Whaley made it clear that he wasn’t directly involved in the department’s discussions about researching and applying AI, he did share some insight on how it is being approached within the department. Whaley states, “We’re in a period of learning and experimenting with this new technology while we continue to focus on helping students learn.” However, for individual faculty, he clarified that they’re given mostly free rein on how AI is being used in the classroom, with only a required statement from the department to address generative AI on their syllabi.   

“Some faculty members who have experimented with AI in their classes are excited about the possibilities. It’s early days, but there is a general feeling that an emphasis only on policing—that is, on trying to detect students’ use of AI or imposing a ban—is wasted effort,” Whaley said in response to a question about balancing potential benefits with dangers of AI regarding usage policies.  

Whaley isn’t alone in thinking that focusing on attempting to ban or detect the usage of AI is a wasted effort. Over the last year, several reports and articles from the likes of the New York Times and Brookings believe that AI should not be banned from schools at all. An NYT article by Kevin Roose argues that “schools should thoughtfully embrace ChatGPT as a teaching aid — one that could unlock student creativity, offer personalized tutoring, and better prepare students to work alongside A.I. systems as adults.” 

Embracing AI in the classroom, however, is a daunting task. As Whaley puts it, “Changing the curriculum is a slow process, with several stages of review beyond the department. GenAI is new and we, along with the institution as a whole, are still learning about its impact and potential. Despite the glacial pace of curricular changes, one of the department’s rhetoricians, Dr. Christa Albrecht-Crane, is currently teaching a special topics course on Rhetoric, AI, and Writing.”  

To see if this was a universal experience across campus, we asked other faculty at UVU how their department is handling AI use. Anne Arendt, an Associate Dean for the College of Technology/Computing, shared, “The first massive adopter was computer science. They have been teaching AI-related programming for many years now via neutral networking, machine learning, and computational data science. That means many of their capstones and other projects have been doing the same for years now.”  

Arendt says they are proposing an associate’s and bachelor’s program for applied AI within the Information Systems and Technology department and a master’s program for the Technology Management department.  

When asked how AI may continue to shape the future of education, she replied, “It is not going away. We should all buckle up and enjoy the ride. We should consider focusing on the opportunities it can offer instead of focusing on what might be lost and then focusing on how to best navigate that path forward for all. It will impact almost every field at almost every level. Most of us will be users ourselves (some are already and may not realize it while others are and do realize it).”  

We also interviewed multiple students to get their opinion on AI’s impact on their education and its place in a university setting. One student, Jacob Barrus, a computer science major, shared that “AI has impacted my learning experience in positive and negative ways. I can use AI to simplify and explain the many concepts and terminology that I run into.”  

Barrus said that he had used ChatGPT to explain a concept to him in simple terms. “I like that! But it can be such a crutch to my learning, and worse, I often have the ability to use it to cheat. It can write programs; it can answer test questions. It is very important in computer science to get your hours in programming and if you rely too heavily on AI, you don’t learn.” He explained that teachers occasionally will allow them to use it, but only for small pieces of a project and not an entire code. “I [would] become reliant on AI processing and not my processing.” 

Another student, Salem Kimball, an English major, said that it hasn’t “really affected my learning in the classroom,” besides instances of professors saying not to use it to write assignments. But like Barrus, he believes that AI would stunt his learning, saying, “Just because something is convenient, easy to use, and intelligent doesn’t make it beneficial – especially if the convenience of said thing is what causes us to lose investment in our own development.” 

AI is a new and continuously evolving technology and as such remains at a stage where its effects and consequences have yet to be fully understood. If students want to learn more about the topic, the AI Task Force at UVU has events planned throughout the semester to educate students and faculty on the technology. A full calendar of events can be found on their website.